How the Army Saved the Navy
Considering what we know of the apparent Israeli bombing of Syrian WMDs last month, it appears that Western Air Forces can impose their will on rogue states without much effort when ever they so choose. Purchasers of Russian made SAM systems must be reconsidering their buying decisions with the repeat failures of such defenses since the end of the Cold War to protect their cities against airstrikes.
It seems only a matter of time that our enemies will choose a less vulnerable way to defend themselves against the highly successful Western technology, such as defeating our nearly invincible Expeditionary Land and Air Forces before the invasion. It is our logistical lifeline that is the most vulnerable, thousands of miles long and dependent on its defense by an increasingly smaller United States Navy.
Our current Expeditionary Strategy is similar to the “gunboat diplomacy” of the 1800s but is something far grander. As I detailed in a previous post, no other nation in history can launch virtually the bulk of their fighting power against offending nations as the US has done almost effortlessly against nations like Germany, Japan, North Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. It is also a far more expensive strategy than Victorian Era colonialism. Instead of tiny steam gunboats armed with machine guns and small landing parties to impose their will, the US deploys huge Aegis battleships and giant amphibious carriers loaded with thousands of Marines to perform essentially the same role.
A future adversary would likely intercept US forces in mid ocean, rather than waiting for the inevitable landings. In a scenario resembling the Millennium Challenge exercise before the Iraq invasion in 2003, swarms of cruise missiles would greet our forces rather than batteries of surface to air missiles. These would be fired from missile boats, submarines, and also land based launchers.
Currently our best strategy is getting our troops into theater before such a frightful scheme can occur. Our best defense then, is the Army, not the Navy. With the Third World insurgents currently occupied on land as they are now in Iraq, they are distracted from transferring their cruise missile guerrilla tactics to the sea. Ironically, the end of the Cold War and Operation Desert Storm saved our Expeditionary Carriers and Amphibious Groups, giving them the free reign they enjoy to impose their will. How long this will continue to occur in the age of precision guided weapons remains to be seen.